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Teaching Skype PR

Jim Courtney is systematically demolishing SparkPR’s inept handling of the Skype 3.0 Beta release.  Check out his two postings over on Skype Journal:

  1. Skype PR Wake-Up Call 1: The Issue, in which he provides example after example of the hugely mixed messages that the blogosphere delivered about the Skype 3.0 beta. No press release was circulated prior to the announcement, and most people (myself included) didn’t know it was coming.  Tipped off the day before, I found out the contents and release date the old fashioned way — by calling people (on Skype, of course).  As a result, I wrote about the stuff that mattered to me: the call transfer functionality.
  2. Skype PR Wake-Up Call 2: The Solution, in which he outlines how blogging and the internet have changed PR.  The basic message?  A beta is your launch.  Better have your messaging ducks in a row by the beta.

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s posting, where Jim will outline what might have happened if the PR team had taken the approach he’s suggesting.

The Skype team should be embarrassed by (a) the fact that Jim, a prominent commentator on Skype at a publication called the Skype Journal, had to pry the press release out of their PR agency hours before the announcement and (b) the fact that he is now having to teach their agency how to do its job.

My advice?  Fire SparkPR and get someone who knows what they’re doing.

{ 2 comments… add one }

  • Joe King November 16, 2006, 6:19 am

    Wow, you guys sure do get pissy when you don't get what you want when you want it.

    I don't know a lot about proper PR procedure, but I thought reporters where supposed to go out and dig up the story. I know, I know – you guys are just "pretend" reporters. So I guess you need all the info delivered into your lap with the "messages" outlined so you can know what to write about. God forbid you should actually write about different things. Now you've all got your panties in a twist because you didn't all write about the same thing on the same day you all wore your pink socks or whatever.

    As someone who reads tech blogs regularly, I would suggest it is a shame there's no one to fire YOU. 90% of what you do is point to each others’ story and repeat it. We readers read the same thing over and over with "hat tips" to the original "writer" – which is usually the loser who motivated to read and quote from the press release at 4am. What you're clearly saying here is that you didn't get the press release and didn't get told what was important so you had to write about what YOU thought was important. Oh no! had to come up with an original thought! And what if it didn't match what Om thinks. Then you might not have anyone to sit at the lunch table with.

    You disgust me calling for the firing of a PR company just because you are too lazy to DO THE WORK, GATHER THE FACTS, that's what REAL reporters do. I think some of you tech bloggers need to get off your FAT ASSES and work for the story, or let the real reporters handle it. At least Jim Courtney took the time to write a thoughtful piece. But then:

    "Stay tuned for tomorrow’s posting, where Jim will outline what might have happened if the PR team had taken the approach he’s suggesting."

    So Jim will write fantasy-fiction tomorrow – woo-hoo! Now, that's what I call journalism! Maybe ABC should do an entire series on what would have happened if we had elected Al Gore instead of George Bush.

    But seriously, the very best part of your post is this little nugget:

    "My advice? Fire SparkPR and get someone who know’s what they’re doing."

    Care to explain the contraction "know's" Alec? Since you're someone who clearly KNOWS what he's doing. It’s supposed to be writing, right? How's that spell checker doing? Maybe you should fire it for not doing its job properly.

  • Alec November 16, 2006, 7:02 am

    Hey Joe,

    Thanks for the correction. You missed an its/it's error as well :) Errors like that go with the territory when you're a one man shop, without an editor. I appreciate the opportunity to correct them.

    And you're right, you don't know how PR works. Jim has been in this industry for longer than the vast majority of people, and in executive roles. I launched Internet Explorer alongside Windows 95 for Microsoft in the 1990's as well. Both he and I, as a result, have been on both sides of the business — as news makers and as news outlets.

    The role of the PR agency is to help shape the message for their client (here are the 3 things we're going to talk about, Mr. Skype spokesperson, here are the sub points, and here are the questions you're likely to get asked), and then to help disseminate that message. What the news outlet does with that information (ie. they may dig up additional background information, or slant the story in a different way) is anybody's guess. The agency's job is to attempt to shape the story in a light that is favourable to the client.

    I'm not complaining about having to do a little leg work. It happens that this particular story — the call transfer API — is incredibly important to my company, iotum. It also happens that the plug-in architecture is important. It was in my interest to do a little bit of work to find out what was up.

    However, to reinforce Jim's point — Spark's PR campaign was non-existant. Nobody I know in the blogging community (and we're pretty tight knit, as you have observed), had a clue. If the campaign had been well executed, Skype might have seen a more coherent message, and more downloads, which would have been to their benefit.

    A well executed PR campaign results in higher visibility for the company and product. Ultimately, that's what Skype is paying Spark for. Skype isn't getting the value it deserves.

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